As a beautiful young woman of pure heart, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) has an idyllic life in a forest kingdom. When an invading army threatens the land, Maleficent rises up to become its fiercest protector. However, a terrible betrayal hardens her heart and twists her into a creature bent on revenge. She engages in an epic battle with the invading king’s successor, then curses his newborn daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning) — realizing only later that the child holds the key to peace in the kingdom.
Looking back on my review catalogue, I was surprised to see that I had never made a review on Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent, let alone even talked about it in the past. The reason why this came as such a surprise to me was because it is a big budget, live-action Disney motion picture.
But since Joachim Rønning’s follow-up Maleficent: Mistress of Evil releases this week, I figured now would be the best possible time to review the predecessor. So, I went ahead and watched the film for the very first time.
Maleficent is a perfectly fine film. In fact, it never really goes above and beyond to become a genuinely compelling movie, but rather an exceptionally fun one instead. But that’s okay, because this story does not need to be one of epic proportions.
By far, my favorite element of this film is Angelina Jolie as the titular character. Throughout the running time, she is filled with a ton of energy, charisma, and devilish delight and it is difficult to not have a blast watching her do wicked things on screen. Something I really admired about her character in this film, is her arc. From the beginning of the movie she is a certain person, and at the end of the movie she is somebody different. Her character arc is one that is not only endearing, but one that audiences will appreciate.
Also terrific in this film is Elle Fanning as Aurora, who embodies childlike wonder effortlessly in numerous sequences. Her love interest, Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites), makes for some exceptionally funny moments as well, and he can be fun to watch on screen.
Like most big budget Disney live-action adventures, Maleficent has its fair share of enjoyable action scenes sprinkled throughout. One in particular involving a dragon being impressively well made that uses computer generated imagery in a smart way.
Speaking of the CGI in this film, for the most part, it is quite well done and in certain scenes, can look really great. However, there are some CGI shots that look downright bad and off-putting. There are three fairy characters in this movie in particular, and the effects on their face look extremely bizarre and almost uncanny valley-like.
There are also a number of scenes in Maleficent that did not need to be included whatsoever. They added practically nothing to the overall story, and were just there for comedic purposes. Therefore, some moments drag more than others and it makes the film as a whole feel longer than it actually is.
Additionally, in the final twenty minutes of the picture, there are approximately five slow-motion shots that are awful. They genuinely took me out of the movie and it was extremely jarring to see, considering that the rest of the film was quite well made from an editing standpoint.
If you really wanted to pick apart this movie, you could do so extremely easily. It is nowhere near perfect and it most certainly does have its flaws, but at the end of the day, it is a fun, humorous, and exciting story for families of all ages.
While Maleficent suffers from pacing issues, shoddy effects, and jarring editing, it manages to entertain with fun action, great performances, and an interesting story.
Overall Grade: B-
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville
Directed by: Robert Stromberg
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Running Time: 97 minutes